A recent letter in The Gazette criticized the Sierra Club for holding an event with University of Montana students in Missoula on the future of Colstrip and clean energy in Montana. It’s important that the community of Colstrip be supported as utilities transition from coal, but Montanans statewide have a huge stake in the future of Montana’s energy.
Clean energy like wind and solar is getting cheaper, making it harder for aging coal plants like Colstrip to compete. NorthWestern Energy, part owner of the plant, recently agreed to purchase wind power for less than a third of the price of Colstrip power.
The decline of coal creates challenges, but the rise of clean energy brings opportunity for communities across Montana to benefit from energy development. When market forces inevitably lead to Colstrip’s retirement, the infrastructure that took that power from Montana to the Pacific Northwest will remain. Renewable energy developers are already identifying projects along existing transmission lines that will spark economic development throughout Montana, including southeast Montana.
To date, the Sierra Club has helped secure $13 million from out-of-state utilities to help Colstrip transition to a post-coal future. These funds will continue to grow. NorthWestern Energy has yet to set aside a penny for the future of Colstrip, nor has Talen Energy. We must support the community of Colstrip as the state navigates these changes in energy markets, while also attracting clean energy developers so that Montana can remain an energy exporter.